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A Few Good Links

Brian Hibbs

Since it was so deep in a grown-tiresome thread, you probably missed this, but I loved loved loved Steve D’s post here.

 

Tom Spurgeon is back with another fabulous round of Holiday interviews, and while I don’t know how many people go here without going thee every day, I wanted to really point out the interview with The Beguiling’s Peter Birkemoe. It’s super rare to see in depth interviews with retailers, and I wish we had more such interviews and profiles. I used to (when it was still a monthly magazine) beg The Comics Journal to do a few interviews with pioneering retailers before it was too late and we lost that history to second hand stories. There are times when I feel like I’d pay for the plane tickets if we could get Gary Groth to interview Jim Hanely. Anyway, great interview, go read it.

 

(This piece on the TCJ website recently was very nice as well)

 

And then, yeah, this week’s Must Read is now Spurgeon’s interview with sometime Savage Critic Tucker Stone (You can write about comics you like, here, Tucker, with no editorial interference or fear of/for reprisals on my end!) — which is just astonishing, and all-too accurate about far too many things. I think Tucker’s off in a few places, about the audience and what it wants, that’s probably borne from me having a two decade long view of retailing, and his considerably less than that, but that’s a 40 minute type-a-thon for another day. (Mostly: the audience DOES WANT Better comics, but mostly they want comics, so when Better comics aren’t available, they’re going to buy what’s there…. or give up on the form, like much of the last decade has been.)

Actually, the one place I’ll take the most issue I’m not certain that Tucker is using “ethical” correctly — a lot of the politicing and infighting he describes is, I don’t think, either ethical or not; it’s simply how groups of humans behave. At the end of the day, I can’t say that there’s a world of  difference between “being told the ‘true story of why Mark Waid was fired’” and discussing being told that in an interview, y’know? I don’t think EITHER of those actions have ethical weight. An ethical action would be the suggestion Tucker made about Pondscum (is that really true?)

I don’t know, maybe I’m too numbed by comics after a quarter century of it, but I honestly don’t think that the Platonic Ideal that Tucker seems to be presenting (eg: that the Image artists didn’t, as a rule, create anything substantially NEW or groundbreaking, having won their freedom) is even a fair burden to put on a person — some cats just want to get paid to draw, y’know, and doing comics is a helluva lot more fun than van wraps and advertising. They don’t HAVE to want to do capital-C Comics,

Wanting better and expecting more is wonderful, but people have to take that first step for themselves.

 

Anyway, I have to run to pick up supplies for the CE eggnog & brandy thingy (not really a “party” per se) on Christmas Eve (starts at 5 if you don’t have better plans on a Saturday night Christmas eve!), I swear I want to write reviews, but this time of the year is brutal for time….

 

-B

14 Responses to “ A Few Good Links ”

  1. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for re-posting Steve D’s post here. You’re right, I did miss it, mostly because as a retailer of twelve years and counting most of the comments preceding it had me wanting to punch babies. Steve D, if you’re reading this you are my hero for today.

    Now off to check out that Tucker Stone interview….

  2. Some interesting things in that interview, but I think even more than he loves comics and hates the comics business, Tuck Tuck Goose loves feeling superior to nerds.

  3. Of course you loved the Steve D post. It completely reframed the argument against saving the DM by propping up a strawman to tear down. (No one was arguing every store should carry every off-beat indie title, just that the DM is no longer servicing the indie market and the indie market is no longer looking primarily to the DM.) I also noticed the way you shifted the goal posts from arguing against digital pricing because of potential harm to the DM to arguing that the proposed price of $1.99 doesn’t cover production.

    At the end of the day, it’s all meaningless. The market will go wherever it goes. Creepy superhero man caves might stick around and they might not. Digital may come down in price or it might not. I hope the good stores survive, but I’m not in favor of handicapping a new delivery method just to ensure they do.

    The Tucker interview…I lost loads of respect for him once I went to Bergen Street and talked to him in person. I no longer have any interest in anything he has to say. I genuinely believe Hibbs only wants what’s best for comics. Tucker…I think Dan Coyle is right, he loves feeling superior to nerds.

  4. Regarding Steve D’s post, I’m just curious if all the people who are so adamantly defending the DM and pooh-poohing digital were also just as supportive and defensive of the newsstand distribution model back when the DM was just starting out. Did all the current DM evangelists argue back then that the established newsstand model should be protected as the DM was still in its infancy? Since no one could possibly know what a future comics industry would be like with a weakened newsstand model, did they argue then that the newsstand model should be protected at all costs, even if that meant siphoning resources from the not yet fully formed DM?

  5. Brian-
    With regards to the TCJ article, did you notice that almost every retailer discussed has had to diversify beyond comics to stay afloat, something that you have said you have no interest in doing?

  6. Yes, Mr. Dan, I did. Because even at age 10 it was obvious to me that if comics disappeared from spinner racks and end cap displays where children could find them while their parents shopped, that the industry would lose it’s gateway, and slowly begin to die out.

    The very fact that you think this argument will ressonate with current comics buyers only proves that we did.

  7. Oh, great, we’re getting the 2.0 version of the last comment thread! As Tucker observed in his interview, fandom could be using the internet to enact real change in content and business…but no, let’s rage against ecomic parity! Arrange those deck chairs while you may…

  8. I’m not at all sure if those are serious questions, but to be safe and assume they are:

    Dan:

    At the point the DM started coming along, the newstand model was in full collapse. Numbers had dropped precipitously, and it was generally assumed there were but years left. The newstand vendors (by and large, I’ll assume) didn’t especially want or care about comics. That’s an entirely different proposition and comparison to today. The DM did NOT kill the newstand — the DM rescued comics FROM the newstand.

    RJT:

    You seem to have a different idea of “diversify” than I do. At least Meltdown and Quimby’s are following exactly the model they started off with and have been following for a very long time indeed (and if I had family-owned property the size of Melt’s, I’d be certain to do original art and other things like that as well!), as is, I am assuming, Desert Island. (though I don’t really know them at all)

    My “objection” to “diversifying” is the Millarworld-notion that comic book stores *need* to become comics/games stores or comics/pop culture stores. Though, if that’s a model that an owner WANTS to follow, by all means do it up!

    -B

  9. OK…one last thing about how badly Steve D missed the point. No one is arguing comics should be cheap through Comixology and sold at a loss to any comic company. The argument is more, “Comixology takes 30%?? Then why do you need them when it would cost almost nothing to make your own app!”

  10. Brian- every store mentioned in that article does something else besides sell monthly comics and trades to make ends meet. Every single one. And you were the one who linked to it. And when I bring that up, you excuse it all away. (“I don’t have a family owned property the size of Melt’s”) Along with your admission on Millarworld that “I’d rather choke to death on some one else’s vomit than sell kawaii versions of Marvel characters on hats.” I think you’re having a hard time separating what is best for the industry and what is best for you personally.

    I’m not saying that cheap digital comics are going to save the industry–I don’t have the level of insider understanding to say anything about that confidently one way or the other–but you are a prominent retailer making the case that it would destroy the industry. But when someone counters that by saying that a good comic shop could offset any loss in monthly sales to digital by diversifying their shop–you say that no, you don’t want to do that. And when you post an article showing how other shops are diversifying and finding other ways to be successful, you counter that you would do some of the things they do if you had a bigger storefront. Which I’m sure is true. But what I fail to see is how that is an industry problem and not just a Brian Hibbs problem.

  11. Reading interviews with guys like Tucker, I just feel for them. It’s like there’s just no more joy left in the hobby. They’re so down on everything out there. They don’t get why fans like myself still get a thrill out of picking up our favorite “mainstream” books every Wednesday. Tonight I’m reading Hickman’s FF and the latest All Star Western and having an enjoyable time. Maybe later this week I’ll read some Silver Age Marvel or DCs to bide my time until next Wed. Why do we need to overthink this stuff? Why do people like this Tucker guy feel the need to couch their loathing of the industry into some sort of critical analysis? I’ve already wasted too much time on this guy. Back to reading the comics I love.

  12. “They’re so down on everything out there.”

    Total bullshit. At least bother to read what someone says before you get pissy about that person accurately pointing out that mainstream comics pretty much suck.

  13. Hey, I’m late returning to this party, but I wanted to respond to some of the comments, especially from Chris Hero.

    First off, I’m NOT re-framing the argument or setting up strawmen and I’m a little frustrated to have you frame it that way. I’m trying to re-convey Hibbs’ ORIGINAL POINT by way of a metaphor with a parallel (but, in some ways, quiet different) industry — based on the very real sense of caveat emptor that I have personally had in the last two years as I’ve watched the home video entertainment industry go through some very rocky transitions.

    I (personally) was HUGELY enthusiastic about NetFlix and online streaming for any number of reasons. And I can’t deny that some of those reasons included my belief that prices could and should come down without physical-object delivery systems; along with a sense of schadenfreude at how the changing industry was laying bare the weaknesses of bad retailers and poorly managed chains like Blockbuster.

    But just as I gleefully watched Blockbuster stumble and fall, and as I watched crappy video stores hemorrhage — I soon watched on, queasily, as the GOOD video stores followed suit, the places that not only fed the demand for blockbuster but also nurtured a film-savvy customer base.

    And just as soon as most of my local options were shuttering their doors, clumsy missteps by NetFlix and chest-beating by the studios over pricing changes made it clear that the future of streaming was not necessarily gonna be what *I THE CONSUMER* might want or hope. Instead, at least in the short term, options are becoming more limited and more expensive — with decisions concentrated in the hands of powerful forces that are more interested in dictating to the customer what THE INDUSTRY wants rather than answering what the consumer wants. The entertainment industry always prefers to force feed the masses rather than cater to multiple boutique tastes — it’s a phenomenon we saw with the rise of the not gold, not platinum but DIAMOND selling superteen acts in the late 90s, a phenomenon that was kneecapped by the digital revolution heralded by Napster — which forced the music industry to acknowledge, at long last, not only technological changes but also the nature of the long tail. But the power players keep trying to figure out how to refocus on the BIG again. Because the long tail is a HASSLE and a tripping hazard on the way to making big profits from tentpoles. (There’s a reason that the big film studios have been shuttering most of their indy-film baby studios and their straight-to-video wings… increasingly, it’s impossible to make a movie in Hollywood that falls between $10 million and $100 million. Either you’re an independent gambling on the jackpot, or you’re a deep-pocketed major player exploiting the existing Intellecutal Properties and raising the tentpoles.)

    “Comixology takes 30%?? Then why do you need them when it would cost almost nothing to make your own app!”

    Chris, do you really think that? If so, you’ve never been involved in the tedious and complex process of developing an app. Doing it right can be difficult and time consuming — especially if one major player has already cornered the market in delivering what’s quickly becoming an industry-standard app that works well on most devices, in a storefront that’s quickly becoming the major one-stop shop.

    Comics companies don’t want to be and maybe shouldn’t be in the app development business — anymore than they can or should be in the distribution business (hello, Heroes’ World debacle).

    I can easily see a scenario where Comixology becomes Diamond, iTunes and NetFlix all rolled into one — which may not be an ideal scenario for the industry as a whole. And that’s IF the comics industry can survive a major brick-and-mortar wipeout, as recently occurred in the home-video entertainment industry.

    What I’m saying is, what if the Home Ent. equivalent of Hibbs offered a modest editorial saying — “Hey, before we dive into digital head-first? Let’s consider what’s working in the system we’ve got.” (And that probably DID happen.) I would have scoffed at him… but with 20/20 hindsight, I would have regretted not listening to him after I saw how things have been turning out.

    Sorry, it’s late & I’m tired — but I hope the bulk of my points are coming through.

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